Vox Article on ISIS’ Apocalyptic Beliefs

I’ve blogged a couple of times about ISIS and how they’re guided by millennialist prophecies about the end of the world. I found this article in the on-line journal, Vox, ‘ISIS’s dead-serious obsession with the apocalypse, explained’, which provides further information on them. It begins

ISIS has an intense interest in the apocalypse. Its propaganda references it constantly, and the group has even conquered a town that only really made sense to target in light of prophecy. The idea that ISIS’s actions are literally helping bring on the end times is central to the group’s unique, and disturbing, ideology.

It would be easy to dismiss ISIS’s apocalyptic obsessions as a weird quirk, or a sideshow to the serious business of the brutal war the group is waging in Iraq and Syria. But as a new book from the Brookings Institution’s Will McCants makes clear, understanding ISIS’s fascination with the apocalypse is essential to understanding the group itself.

Apocalyptic fantasies are “a major part of the Islamic State’s recruiting pitch,” McCants, the director of Brookings’s Project on US-Islamic Relations, told me in an April interview.

“Based on their rhetoric, they believe that the final apocalyptic battles with the infidel are swiftly approaching.” Those beliefs aren’t mere superstitions. They have affected huge parts of ISIS’s operations, from its recruitment strategies to its military priorities — and they continue to do so today.

The article states that most Muslims didn’t take these prophecies seriously, or at least believe the end was imminent, until 2003 and the collapse of Iraq in the wake of the allied invasion. This convinced many Sunnis that the Shi’a had allied with the Jews and Christians against them in an alliance of infidels against true Muslims. It also suggests that while such beliefs are at the core of the Islamic state and its appeal to disaffected Sunnis, the present leader, al-Baghdadi, doesn’t take it seriously. Instead, he’s cynically using it to motivate his troops.

The article also optimistically believes that these apocalyptic beliefs are the major weakness in Daesh, which will ultimately lead to its downfall. Daesh believe they have to revive the Caliphate in order to fulfil these prophecies. They therefore cannot disappear, abandoning the territory they have conquered, to fight a guerrilla war like al-Qaeda. As a result, they’re likely to be defeated by the various enemies they have attacked in the region.

The article can be read here:

Please do so if you want a better idea of our terrorist enemies than simply the knee-jerk response of nutters and bigots like Donald Trump, who think all you need to know is that they’re Muslims.

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